Sixteen-year-old Vivien is trapped in The Vestalis Academy, a prison-like boarding school, keeping to herself and sticking her neck out for no one. Until she is reunited with Sophia -- the former friend who betrayed her. Together the girls embark on a dangerous search to uncover the horrifying truth behind their imprisonment. Soon running for their lives, the girls must save themselves or die trying.
Directed by: Danishka Esterhazy
. Starring: Katie Douglas
, Celina Martin
, Sara Canning
, Peter Outerbridge
, Amalia Williamson
, Kate Vickery
, Sarah DaSilva
, Joelle Farrow
, Marie Carriere Gleason
, Josette Halpert
, Shanice Johnson
, Yasmin Lau
, Kiana Madeira
. Music by: Menalon
, Joseph Murray
, Lodewijk Vos
This was a film that I wrote an article about its upcoming release. I wasn't sure if this film was actually going to be horror or just sci-fi. After seeing it, I do think there are enough horror elements for me to consider it. This film has quite the interesting premise as well. The synopsis is sixteen-year-old Vivien (Katie Douglas) is trapped in The Vestalis Academy, a prison-like boarding school. Together with her former friend, Sophia (Celina Martin) they uncover the dangerous truth behind their imprisonment.
We start off with both our main characters when they are younger. Vivien wants to be the best student, but she also wants to help her best friend, Sophia. All students are trying to get to level 16, where they can be adopted by a family. The problem is that Sophia has bad eyesight. All of the girls are preached to be good and to make sure they are clean. Sophia drops her face wash and can't find it. Vivien gets out of line to help her, but when she is up next and doesn't clean her face in time, she is taken away to be punished.
The film then shifts to present day. Vivien is now hardened to just be the best. She keeps to herself and is the leader of the class. We get this when the video lesson for the day freezes up. The other girls question what to do, but she keeps them in line.
The woman in charge of all of this is Miss Brixil (Sara Canning). She alerts the girls that are graduating to the next level, 16. It is when they get to their new room that Vivien is back with Sophia, who she hasn't seen since the day that she felt betrayed. The only vice that Vivien has is taking the headboard off her bed and scratching in the days she is at that level.
Things all change when Sophia pulls Vivien aside and tells her to stop taking the vitamins they are given. Vivien does and the nightmare really begins of when they are supposed to be asleep. It gets even darker when they realize what Miss Brixil and Dr. Miro (Peter Outerbridge) are really up to.
As I've kind of alluded to earlier, I knew that this film was going to be more sci-fi than anything and that is what we get. The girls are all told that they can't go outside. The air and water have been poisoned and this school is there to protect them. It appears that the outside world is post-apocalyptic. They are told that once they reach the final level and pass what the school is developing them to, they will have families who will love them. I kind of saw what the reveal was alluding to from what the dialogue was giving, but I actually thought it was an interesting concept. I like it even more when we realize where this film is taking place at the end as well.
This film though is steeped with allegory. We have these young women that are being groomed to be perfect. It is interesting; because what this film is presenting goes against everything feminist and that they don't have a choice. Being that the writerdirector. Danishka Esterhazy, is a woman I have good reason to believe this is definitely a feminist look at society. I personally love what the film is saying, because even though I'm male, I don't think that women should be conditioned this way and should think for themselves.
Going with the sci-fi aspect of the film, there is something interesting to whether these are orphans or if they are being designed in a lab. I have reason to believe it could be either or it could definitely be both.
Something that really made it horror for me is the feel of the film. They are preaching to these young women that they need to be clean, but the building is rundown. It is something that is addressed in the film, but being that they've never seen the sun and that they are locked in here is pretty scary. The pacing of the film helps build tension and the more you learn about the plot, the darker all of this becomes. I will say there was a bit of a pacing issue later in the second half, as the film kind of felt like it lost its way a bit. I understand that you really can't cut anything though, because you need that brief reprieve after some of the things that happened. I did like the ending though and thought it was fitting for the film.
Acting is something for a film like this that needs to be good. There is an interesting concept, but we are confined to minimal sets and we need their reactions to it. With that said, I thought Douglas was great. Her resting face has enough attitude in it that it looks like someone who has been wronged when they've been doing the right thing and it has effected her. I thought it was powerful. Her character does come around a bit too fast, but with a film like this, you need it start the investigation. Martin I thought was fine. I liked Canning in her role. She seems like she in control, but we see that she's doing what she can to hold it together. Outerbridge is interesting as someone who you want to trust, but there's also something not quite right about him. I thought the rest of the girls are solid in rounding it out. They have enough fear, naivety and inquisitive nature to make it feel real. The bodyguards are also solid for their imposing nature in a 1984 kind of way.
As for the effects, for being sci-fi, there wasn't a whole lot. This film did a great job at making this feel like the future, without really giving us any futuristic things. All that we saw in the film are things that are around us today, which begs the question, is this in the future? Or does it just feel that way? There was some CGI in a scene at the end of the climax, but it actually looked good. I cringed a bit too, not going to lie. That is something I really like when a film can get a reaction out of me. The film was shot beautifully and felt real.
Now with that said, I was really glad I stayed up late to check this out in my theater. I really enjoyed the concept and the story of the film. It is interesting as well with its underlying allegory that is very relevant today. The acting helps to bring everything to life. I thought the film was a bit long, but I don't really see anything that could be cut from it. It does still build the necessary tension with a solid payoff. There weren't a lot in the way of effects and even though it went CGI, I thought it was used right. There is a nightmare quality to this film that even though it is listed as sci-fi, I still think it is flirts with the genre enough to push it over. I found this to be a good film and would recommend giving it a viewing.
Review by david_rudy_lee from the Internet Movie Database.